20 answers

Very Shy 4 Year Old, What Can I Do?

My 4 year old son is very shy. He has an older brother who is almost 7 who is an extrovert and always very loud and outgoing, he has a 2 yr old little sister who everyone is always saying "is so cute". He's the middle child and I worry about him. He has many great qualitiies, he's an excellent listener, and very caring, and the friends he has he treats very well.. But he is very shy. If an adult he does not know speaks to him he just smiles and hides his face. He won't even answer. He uses his siblings as his security blanket when he's in a social situation that makes him uncomfortable. I signed him up for mommy and me gymnastics and he did really well once he warmed up to the teacher AND as long as I was there. I signed him up for tball and he cried and clinged to me. He starts preschool next year and I worry about him. He's never done anything alone without his siblings. What can I do to help him before then?

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you for reminding me to spend one-on-one time with him. That has definitely been something that hasn't happened much. I feel horribly about it. His personality is so easy going he does get lost in the shuffle from time to time.

More Answers

Read this:
http://www.askdrsears.com/html/10/t110223.asp

Some of the best quotes are:

"Many shy children have a solid self-concept. They have an inner peace that shines; if the extroverts would be quiet long enough they would notice its glow."

"Shyness is a personality trait, not a fault. Some of the nicest people I've ever known are shy. These persons tend to be attentive listeners, private people who exude a welcome presence even without saying a word."

"Hug your quiet child. The world will be a more gentle place because of him or her."

"Never label a child "shy." On hearing this a child feels something's wrong with her, and this will make her feel more shy."

8 moms found this helpful

My son at 4 was also somewhat shy. One of the best things I found for him was a theater program for kids, based on multiple intelligences theory. The best thing about multiple intelligences is that they try to hit on 3 or 4 of multiple intelligences every class -- that means every kid in the class excels at something. Plus, the theater class drew him out and made him speak up in front of the other kids in a very kind way. The first few weeks, he would sit under a table at the beginning of class, but the end of the three month class, he was having a great time. I know this program was rather unique to my area, but perhaps there is something along that line in Colorado Springs. By the way, I was labeled as extremely shy as a child and I struggled with it a lot even into my professional life. Between 25 and 30 years old, I came to the realization, with the help of a friend, that there was nothing wrong with me, it's just a personality trait. Now, I will tell people that I have the tendency to be quiet and introverted, but I am not shy. The strength of the introverted personality is that you think and understand before you speak. It might take longer for people to understand the treasure your son is because he doesn't speak out immediately, but when they realize the weight of thought behind everything he says, they will value what he says more. The key is to give him confidence early that he can handle any situation even though he might have an introverted personality (that's why theater is a good option) and then he will have the strength to overlook the culture that tends to penalize "shyness."

4 moms found this helpful

My son is in first grade this year, and although his personality has always been "shy" he has really come out of his shell this year. Friends, playdates and sports I think, have really helped.
That said, his basic personality is (and has always been) independent, quiet, introspective and thoughtful. I have a strong personality and am very social. My husband always reminds me that this world needs ALL kinds of personalities to go 'round...and he's right!
Let your little one be himself, encourage his friendships and interests and he'll be just fine.

3 moms found this helpful

Most important thing you can do is accept him for who he is. Introverts are not always shy or lacking in a strong personality as some have suggested. They process the world differently, and they often have fewer but more intense, closer connections with people. Introverts get depleted by too much interaction in the outside world and need internal and alone time to re-energize. Your son may just be going through a "shy" period or he may be a true introvert. Accept him and make sure the other siblings don't overwhelm him. Let him have a voice, even if it is a quieter one. He will find his way.

3 moms found this helpful

I think you've gotten some great responses. Just wanted to add one thing (as a mother of at least one highly sensitive child...): since reading the book by Elaine Aaron (which another mom suggested to you also) i have observed a little closer what our son actually might be feeling/thinking whenever i would label him as "shy". Turns out that he often is less afraid than i think, and just wants to observe closely. Instead of thinking he feels afraid and bad, i now often just back off a little and let him be, and i sense that he feels ok, actually may enjoy himself, and is not so much afraid at all. There is always so much gong on in his little mind, and he may be concentrating on something entirely different than waht i (and others) may imagine. I have come to dread people saying: "You don't have to be shy..." etc, since that label now has a wrong taste. I have also notced that others who have "shy children" as well are far more likely to accept who he is, and therefore he will take less time to "warm up" than when someone insists he should be as outgoing as the other kids, and won't stp trying to entice him to join an activity. By now, those people get on my nerves, and i remember now how i wanted to hide when i encountered them as a kid.
Good luck!
D.

2 moms found this helpful

Our son is very shy, too. He's definitely a follower, not a stronger personality that leads other kids in activities. My husband and I both have strong personalities (mine is the more dominant), and we embrace that our son is a different personality and try to encourage him as much as possible to be himself (he is 3.5 years).

I think all you can do is to continue to be acutely aware of him being the middle child, having a different personality, and making sure he doesn't get lost in the shuffle.

My only recommendation of what you can do differently than what you're doing now is to make sure you're out of the picture in some of the activities. We've been fortunate that our son has been in day care the past 2 years and has had exposure to different social situations in our absence and has had to work through them on his own. As much as I applaud you for engaging him in gymnastics and T-ball, your presence there may be his safety net.

He sounds like a wonderful child, and I hope he'll be very comfortable in his own skin as a different personality from his siblings. One thing we're trying to make a concerted effort to do is to have individual time with each of our children - one-on-one time with Mom and then Dad separately. We want to let them pick the activities and really get to know them for the individuals they are.

Good luck. It sounds like you're a wonderful mom to all 3 of your kids.

2 moms found this helpful

Be there... Allow him to be himself... :-)

Our 2nd (5yr old boy) is the same way... He really did not speak at all till he was almost 4 and then not to anyone but me, hubby, or siblings...

And then Kindergarten started. We told the teacher all about how shy he was and oh, how we worried... Would he talk to the teacher? To the other kids?

Well, since starting school guess which little boy has been getting notes sent home about his talking about every other week... :-) Apparently he is talking TOO much. lol He has MANY friends at school and Has really come out of his protective shell since he's not hooked to us all the time...

Give him alone time... Even if its just the two of you going grocery shopping together or running to the gas station.... Thats not so much for the shyness, but the middle child thing. :-)

2 moms found this helpful

I'm an introvert and a mom to an introverted 5 year old and an outgoing 4 year old. Of the two, it's actually the 4 year old I can't understand! LOL!
You've gotten some great suggestions, just try to remember that his personality is not an "issue" or a "problem" it's just the way he is. Don't ever try to force him to be who he isn't. You've noticed that he's fine once he warms up to a situation and that will help. With time, he'll learn those "social skills" that some kids seem born knowing. He will probably never feel completely comfortable making small talk or shaking the hand of someone he's just met, but he will learn to go through the motions until he actually is comfortable. Just keeping modeling behavior for him and talk to him about how he feels. Make sure he knows that it's ok to feel shy and that will help. Considering the extroverted children in your family, he probably feels like the odd man out.
My heart goes out to him because I *remember* what it's like and I see it in my 5 year old every day. Yes, childhood will be a bit more difficult for him (our society really doesn't accomodate introverts well) but he will be ok.

2 moms found this helpful

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